On Tuesday, the US State Department expressed its “concern” over reports that “the Saudi Anti-Terrorism Court has sentenced the Saudi aid worker, Abdul Rahman Al-Sadhan, to 20 years in prison, followed by a travel ban for another twenty years,” according to statement State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
Price said the State Department would continue to “closely monitor this case throughout the appeal process,” adding that “as we have told Saudi officials at all levels, freedom of expression should never be a crime punishable by law.”
Price emphasized that the United States would continue to “raise the role of human rights in relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and encourage legal reforms that respect the human rights of all individuals.”
We are concerned by reports that Saudi aid worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan was given a 20-year prison sentence and travel ban, pending appeal, after being held with limited contact with family for three years. Exercising human rights should never be a punishable offense.
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) April 6, 2021
The Al-Sadhan family criticized the ruling against Abdel-Rahman, describing it as “crazy,” according to his sister’s tweet on Twitter.
The Saudi authorities have not yet commented on the news of the ruling, but the activist’s sister said that the verdict had changed at the last moment because “the prosecution was not satisfied with the initial ruling.”
In 2015, a data breach on Twitter, via Saudis, led to the disclosure of unknown government critics on the platform, and their arrest, according to families and two cases against the company.
The US Department of Justice accused former employees of spying for the Saudi government, with access to data from more than six thousand accounts, in search of users “critical of the regime.”
According to the ministry, “the personal information of users included e-mail, phone numbers, their Internet Protocol address and their dates of birth,” warning that this data could be used to locate users.
One of them was Abd al-Rahman al-Sadhan, 36, who works for the Red Crescent, and expressed his views on human rights and other social issues through his anonymous Twitter account, according to his family.
His sister Areej, who lives in San Francisco, stated that Saudi security forces arrested him at his office in Riyadh in March 2018.
Two years after his disappearance, he was allowed to make a phone call to his family, and he said that he was being held in al-Ha’ir prison near Riyadh.
His sister confirmed to France Press that “it was his first and only call, and it lasted for less than a minute.” Someone said to him (the minute ended) and there was no goodbye or I will talk to you later.